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The Joy of Quiet

A recent New York Times story calmly – but strongly — extolled “the joy of quiet.”

Essayist Pico Iyer noted that the average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day. (Parents, don’t shake your heads: The average office worker spends no more than three minutes at his or her desk without interruption.)

Half a world away, Iyer said, “internet rescue camps” in South Korea and China try to save kids “addicted to the screen.”

Iyer said that “the urgency of slowing down – to find the time and space to think” – is both important, and timeless. He quoted a 17th century philosopher’s dictum, that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Fortunately, teenagers do not have to travel to Asia to spend quiet time away from electronic devices, with all their beeps and buzzes and hypnotic power to keep us constantly tuned in, always wired, relentlessly “on.”

Camp offers a wonderful opportunity to experience “the joy of quiet.” In the mountains, by lakes, in cabins – for several weeks, the cord is cut.

As a result, youngsters – and staff members – enjoy “the joy of quiet.”

It may not be the “quiet” Iyer seeks. The quiet of camp includes raucous laughter. The thwack of a tennis ball. The roar of a waterskiing boat.

But it’s the quiet every human being needs, and so few find. It’s the quiet of spending plenty of time with friends you can actually talk to face to face. The quiet of spending plenty of time at one activity, uninterrupted, from start to finish.

And, sometimes, it’s the quiet of spending time truly alone. Those moments are not silent, of course – crickets chirp and bees buzz –
but they’re moments when “the joy of quiet” that Pico Iyer wrote about is the most profound sound around.
Oh, yeah. They’re the moments when birds tweet.

And human beings don’t have to.

Muhammad Ali and Maine

Maine is known for many things: Lobsters. Lakes. Moose. Pine trees. Summer camps.

It’s not often associated with professional boxing. But on May 25, 1965 Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston met in a rematch of their 1964 heavyweight championship bout. The site was one of the oddest in boxing history: Lewiston, Maine.

It was originally scheduled for Boston, six months earlier. But Ali underwent emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia; a Massachusetts promoter claimed the rescheduled fight was not properly licensed, and at the last minute it was moved to a junior hockey rink 35 miles north of Portland.

According to Wikipedia, Lewiston was the smallest site of a heavyweight title match since Jack Dempsey’s victory in Shelby, Montana in 1923. It’s still one of the most famous sports events in Maine history.

It’s also one of the most controversial boxing matches ever. Halfway through the first round, Liston went down with a thud. Hardly anyone had seen a punch. The referee – boxing great Jersey Joe Walcott – seemed confused when Ali stood over Liston and yelled, “Get up and box…!”

The normal 10-second count took twice as long. By the end, Liston had gotten up. But Walcott – after listening to a boxing writer who climbed into the ring – stopped the fight, and awarded Ali a knockout. That too was controversial: Ali had taken a long time retreating to a neutral corner, which is when the count should have started.

Nearly 50 years later, the Lewiston fight remains legendary. Did Sonny Liston take a dive? Was the 10-second count legitimate? Why was there so much confusion?

No one will ever know. But half a century later, the only heavyweight title bout ever to take place in Maine remains a story for the ages.

Top Five Reasons Why Fruit Break Is Wicked Awesome

5. A Ten minute break between activities, sports and programs to refuel, relax and laugh with friends in the shade.

4. An apple a day might not keep the doctor away like the saying goes, but studies have shown that with the right about of fruit and vegetables a day, it is undeniably great for your health and immune system. One apple qualifies as one of the five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables recommended by the American Cancer Society that help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and stoke.

3. Just one serving of fruit revives your system with essential vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and water to help you keep going while climbing the rock wall, swimming in the lake, or volleying in tennis.

2. Eating fresh fruit gets you in the habit of eating something more nutritious for a snack instead of choosing one that is unhealthy and filled with sugar. This habit will lead to a better, healthier and happier life.

1. Nothing beats the juicy goodness of a peach or plum and the crisp first bite of an apple or pear!

” Peaceful Easy Feeling…”

If you’re a child of the ‘70s you may recall the Eagles’ line from “Peaceful Easy Feeling” – the one about “a billion stars all around.”

It’s hard today to see stars. Between ambient light and air pollution, the night sky is no longer the marvel it once was.

In the 21st century, most kids don’t get a chance to see a billion stars all around. And their connection to nature is not much better during the day.

Between schoolwork, extracurricular activities and countless other demands, they’ve got little time to themselves. What free time they do have is often spent inside, in front of computer screens and video games. Not in the great outdoors.

Among the many unheralded benefits of camp, there’s this one. It’s a rare chance for children to encounter nature in its relatively wild state. Not in a city park, or a suburban lawn – but away from crowds, in hills, forests and fields, on rivers and lakes.

Human beings are hard-wired to need nature,” notes a recent documentary, “Play Again.” The film warns of the “consequences of a childhood removed from nature.”

Camp is one place where youngsters meet nature on its own terms. Hiking, fishing, boating, just running in a field of grass, boys and girls experience nature in all its peace, simplicity and glory.

Kids watch animals unfettered by cages. (And in Maine, they may be lucky enough to spot a moose.) They discover the wonderful smell of flowers, woods and fields. They feel rain, sun, and the cool breeze of an autumn evening.

And one night, they look up in the Maine sky. There – as if by magic – they see a billion stars, all around.

Free Play

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses it. Hundreds of research projects over several decades affirm it. There’s even a scholarly journal devoted to it.

“It” is free play. Experts cite free play as essential to helping children develop.

Free play may be little noticed. Yet it’s a crucial part of the summer camp experience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics calls free play “unstructured activity that allows youngsters to use their imagination.” In addition to healthy brain development, the benefits of free play include:
• Using creativity to develop imagination, dexterity and other strengths
• Encouraging children to interact
• Helping kids conquer fears and build confidence
• Teaching youngsters to work in groups, learn to share and resolve conflicts
• Helping children practice decision-making skills.
Many forces – the growth of organized sports and other activities, changes in family structures, reduced recess and physical education time – have made free play an endangered species.
Except at camp.

We make sure to schedule unscheduled time. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it’s not.

“Downtime” allows campers to be creative. Some play jacks on the floor of the cabin; others strum guitars, make bracelets, trade stickers, play ping-pong, chess or wiffle ball.
Campers may organize their own games. Pick-up soccer or basketball is far different from organized games.

Kids choose their own teams, modify the rules, even call their own fouls. “Sandlot” sports are almost a lost art. At camp, they’re very much alive.

Free play can be fleeting, or turn into a tradition. Some involves large groups; some is best done in twos and threes.

Free play can produce surprising leaders – and showcase otherwise hidden talents.

Free play is many things. It’s important, creative and unstructured.

Most of all: It’s fun.

AUTUMN in MAINE

You might think that when camp shuts down in August, the rest of Maine does too.

Our cabins and courts may be quiet now. But throughout the state, things are really heating up.

Of course, fall in Maine means foliage. Maples and oaks blaze in a spectacular display of red, orange and yellow leaves. From Acadia National Park and rocky coastal villages to forested mountain passes, you have to look hard to find a spot that’s not breathtakingly beautiful.

Orchards buzz with activity. Anything apple related – like apple picking and cider pressing — is fun for entire families (and very healthful!).

Farmers’ markets and roadside stands are not just for summer either.
There’s plenty of great-tasting produce to be found, all through fall.

Many Maine towns sponsor agricultural fairs, food and wine celebrations – even corn mazes – every autumn.

Fall in Maine is prime antiquing and fly fishing time. Bird watching too: Migrating hawks, warblers and shore birds fill the skies.

Even lobsters get into the act. Autumn is peak season for Maine lobster – the largest harvest production takes place now. (This is also the time for molting, so soft shell aficionados: You’re in luck!)

The weather sparkles. The colors are incredible.
Sure, camp is quiet. But – as is so often the case – there’s far more to Maine than meets the eye.

Camp is…Friends, Skills and Fun

The clothes have been washed (and washed again). The sleeping bag has been aired out. The stories have been told – many of them, anyway.

Right now, camp takes a back seat to the new school year. It’s a little early to think about next year. But now – with a little distance – is the perfect time to figure out how successful your son or daughter’s summer camp experience was and ask a lot of questions.

Does your child talk about friends and counselors? That’s a sure sign of a great summer. Peers and young adults have an enormous influence on a camp environment – and on each other.

What skills did your child gain, develop or improve? Is he hitting a tennis ball with a little more power than just a few months ago? Did she ask you to go swimming every day until school began? Has your son shown a new interest in drama?Does your daughter now want to write for the school newspaper?

Can you see new confidence in your child? Does she walk taller? Did he tackle tasks he once shied away from? One mother said, “I almost didn’t recognize my son after camp. It wasn’t that he grew – although he did. It was just the way he carried himself. The change in just a few weeks was incredible.”

Can you sense a spirit of independence? Whether spending a summer away from home for the first time, or having to figure things out without Mom and Dad’s help, youngsters enjoy a level of independence at camp that’s tough to attain at home. Kids still need their parents, of course – but the feel good knowing they can handle certain situations on their own.

Do they make better choices? The camp day is filled with decisions. If you detect a new (and improved) level of decision-making, camp may be part of the reason.

Does your child put things away on his own now? Nah. He did at camp – but old habits die hard.

MOOSEBOWL

Tuesday night was one of the most exciting of all time at Laurel South – it was our First Moosebowl!!! This exciting football game between the Rattlesnakes and the Black Bears of Rangeley became far more than just a game…it was an event to match the Super Bowl! While the two teams battled it out on the field, we had tailgating, tee shirt slingshots, dancing, singing, half time contests and more. In the end, the Black Bears prevailed, but all of the men of Rangeley felt victorious in knowing they were the pioneers of a game which will only grow in stature for years to come!!! We also hosted the first ever Laurel South Invitational 5-K, as friends from many camps arrived to race the quickest Laurel South has to offer. We all enjoyed ourselves and raced admirably. Thursday we headed to Funtown for our final incredible “S” Day of the Session. We are down to our final “A” Day and “B” Day of the season and busy preparing for the Dance and Gymnastic Show. Where did the time go?

The Fun Never Stops!

What an unbelievable “S” Day we had. We started off with an incredible breakfast followed by an awesome movie morning. After Rest Hour, we were amazed by the level of talent of our campers in the Camper Variety Show and we topped off the day the incredible Laurel South Carnival!!! Tomorrow night is our First Annual Moosebowl Game, pitting the Rattlesnakes against the Black Bears in Rangeley Flag Football Game. The entire camp will be on hand to witness the game, enjoy the entertainment of the Laurel South Dancers, have a great Tailgate Party and spend time with friends. We may only have one week left, but there is plenty of excitement to be had!!!

What I Learned at Camp

Summer is winding down. Wait – we just got here!

That’s how fast camp goes. One day a kid boards the bus with nervous anticipation. The next, he heads home on the same bus with a smile and a lifetime of memories.

They don’t even realize that – in addition to having tons of fun – they’ve grown a lot.

The other day, we asked a few of our campers what they learned this summer. Here’s what they shouted – er, said:

  • Counselors are cool. We talked about everything.
  • Before I went to camp, people said the food stinks. It didn’t.
  • I learned I could swim a lot farther than I thought. But the waterfront guys told me I could do it all along.
  • It’s impossible for my counselor to pack everything back up the way my mom did before camp.
  • It’s okay to wake up early if you don’t know what time it is.
  • I’m not sure, but I may ask my parents if I can do yoga when I get home.
  • Sometimes when people say “hurry up, you’ll be late,” they really mean it. Sometimes they don’t.
  • I always thought I liked lacrosse better than soccer. Now I’m not sure.
  • I saw my sister less this summer than I do at home. But it was still nice having her here.
  • No one will clean up your cabin for you, except you.
  • It’s really nice if your parents write a lot, even if they don’t say much in their letters.
  • It’s hard to canoe when your paddle falls in the water.
  • I have eight new best friends.
  • When they tell you to bring a sweatshirt and a blanket, they know what they are talking about.
  • I was positive I couldn’t live without my cell phone. Now I forget where I put it in my room before I left.
  • How come no one ever told me that waterskiing was so much fun?
  • It’s good to go on trips away from camp. And it’s good to come back.
  • I like my new nickname a lot.
  • When I came to camp I missed my dog. When I go home I’m going to miss my horse.
  • Maine is an awesome state!
  • It feels like I grew five inches, but the nurse says only one.
  • I still can’t sing, but our play was amazing anyway.
  • My goal in life is to come back as a counselor.
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